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Eve as gene flow,
This review is from: The Real Eve: Modern Man's Journey Out of Africa (Hardcover)I found reading The Real Eve a little difficult to stick to, getting lost occasionally among all the letters identifying this group and that group. Hanging in there, though, was worth it. Most of the literature I've read recently has accepted the theory that species H. sapiens and its immediate Homo ancestors originated in and spread from Africa. Although other scenarios have been proposed from time to time, the Mitochondrial Eve study topped off the debate so that it is now taken almost as a given. What was less contentious throughout most of the discussion is the route by which the various species of our dynasty took to arrive in Europe, which was usually through the Levant to Europe and Asia. In The Real Eve Dr. Oppenheimer gives very cogent reasons for believing otherwise.
Following genetic studies conducted recently by a variety of researchers including himself, the author puts together for the reader an intriguing tale of a southern exodus across the Red Sea to Yemen and from there to coastal Asia, where the Beachcombers as he describes the culture, spread from India to the Americas and when climate permitted to the Levant and Europe. What makes his theory so forceful is the interwoven elements of genetics, archaeology, paleontology, geography and paleoclimatology with which he creates it.
What I found most fascinating was Dr. Oppenheimer's critique of the American adversarial style of archaeological and anthropological studies. His description of an entrenched elder generation vigorously fending off the encroachment of an energetic younger generation that is trying to make a name for itself by overturning respected theories is not far off the mark. Reputation means academic power and control of grants and tenure. With cut backs in government finance of education and research, these plums are harder to come by than they were, and he-and it's usually been a "he" in these situations-who controls the department controls the future of the fledgling wannabes. I saw this type of professional skirmish in action myself while studying history some time ago. The reader can see it in action by simply following the course of the debate over the peopling of the Americas that has occurred in the literature of the past 50 years. Dr. Oppenheimer gives a blunt overview of it in his book.
What is most admirable about the discussion-despite its confusion for the lay person-is the fact that the author tends to stick with genes rather than individuals. Other authors try to depict individuals like Oppenheimer's Nasreen or Cane as people to capture the reader's imagination. While this is entertaining, it also creates the false idea that "A" Nasreen lived and breathed when in fact a particular gene sequence rather than a person is what is being followed. Human beings are masses of genetic sequences which we reshuffle with each generation. I found myself getting caught up in this mystique of an individual Eve when I first started reading literature on the subject, and it took a while to get the concept clear of personalities. I think the sense of gene flow is more apparent in this work than in others I've read.